It has become a familiar ritual. Wealthy professional sports team owners ask state and local governments to subsidize their venues, threatening to skip town if taxpayers don’t pony up. As Bloomberg News reports, 64 professional sports arenas around the nation currently receive either public financing or tax breaks.
Despite national, state, and local fiscal woes, elected officials continue to spend or forgo billions of tax dollars on professional sports stadiums owned by millionaires and billionaires.
I continue to be amazed at how willing taxpayers are to allow themselves to be deceived into thinking that someone else is going to pay for some public project, and therefore go along with politicians’ plans to spend their money so frivolously.
Trey Kovacs reminds us of the deal in Minnesota whereby the taxpayers are going on the hook for half the cost of the new football stadium there:
Minnesota, home of the Vikings of the National Football League, faces a projected $1 billion-plus 2013 deficit, in addition to just overcoming last summer’s $5 billion budget shortfall and near-government shutdown.
Yet that hasn’t deterred Governor Mark Dayton (D) and elected officials on both sides of the aisle from bestowing millions of taxpayer dollars upon billionaire Vikings owner Zygi Wilf to construct a new football stadium — which the NFL says is necessary to keep the Vikings in Minnesota. [Threat of blackmail?]
In May, Dayton authorized $348 million for the stadium. Combined with the $150 million the city of Minneapolis had already chipped in, that brought the total public funding for the stadium to $498 million, or 51 percent of the stadium’s estimated cost.
On September 14, the Minnesota Sports Facility Authority began spending the taxpayer funds, awarding multiple deals to contractors for construction.
What a deal! But, hey, someone else is going to pay for it! And besides, it’s the great national pastime: watching gladiators joust in the public arena to distract ticketholders from the pressures of the real world, at least for a few hours.